Are you a plant-based parent wondering how safe plant-based eating is for your child? Do you worry your child won’t eat enough nutrients for healthy growth and development? Accredited Practising Dietitian, Erika Hung, explains what you need to know.

How safe are plant-based diets for children?

From vegan to vegetarian and pescatarian, plant-based diets have one thing in common: they focus on eating mainly grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables and sometimes eggs and dairy. In short, yes, plant-based diets can provide all the nutrients your child needs to grow (just as well as omnivores!). The caveat? Careful planning is key. In fact, research shows rallying support from a health professional is important to meet all of your child’s requirements.

What nutrients might children fall short on?

Without animal foods, key nutrients that drop include vitamin B12, iron, zinc, calcium, protein, omega 3 fats and vitamin D. Most important is vitamin B12 as it is only found in animal foods. Plant-based foods are also naturally fibre-rich and low-calorie. Your child may then quickly feel full and not consume enough calories to grow. Add to that typical toddler picky eating and you have a recipe for a challenging time feeding your child a balanced diet.

To help you out, here are my top four tips when it comes to raising a plant-based eater.

  1. Include protein at each main meal and most snacks

Regularly including protein across three main meals and two to three snacks will help your child meet their requirements. Choose whole food plant-based sources as they are also conveniently rich in iron, zinc and omega-3 fats. Think tofu, tempeh, TVP, legumes, nuts and seeds (especially cashews and pumpkin, sesame, hemp and chia seeds).

  1. Focus on healthy fats

Including healthy fats which are high calorie and low volume at each meal and snack is key to making sure your child eats enough calories before feeling overly full. Healthy fats also pack in iron, zinc and omega-3 fats depending on the food source. Examples include:

  • Nuts, seeds and their pastes such as peanut butter
  • Avocado
  • Extra virgin olive oil and flaxseed oil
  1. Choose the right milk

An overwhelming number of plant-based milks sit in the milk aisle at the supermarket. When sifting through options, choose one which is high in protein and fats and fortified with calcium. This includes full-fat soy and pea milk. Check the panel for 120mg calcium per 100mL to ensure there is enough calcium.

  1. Supplement where needed and see your Doctor or Dietitian

If your child is strictly vegan, a vitamin B12 supplement is essential. Your child may also need to supplement with omega 3 fats and vitamin D, especially if excluding eggs, dairy and fish.

Enlisting support from your doctor or Dietitian is required to tailor the right supplements for your child.

Take home message

A plant-based diet can meet all of your child’s nutrient requirements for healthy growth and development. However, careful planning is key! To feel confident your child’s diet is nutritious, focus on nutrients that easily fall short when excluding animal foods and enlist support from your Doctor and Dietitian.

Erika Hung

Erika is an Accredited Practising Dietitian from The Lifestyle Dietitian, a Sydney-based and online practice that focuses on sustainable diet and lifestyle change. Erika works across a range of areas with special interests in plant-based nutrition, gut health, PCOS and endometriosis. She is passionate about ensuring her advice is simple, practical, grounded in the latest evidence and tailored to each individual’s unique lifestyle.

For more information on all things kids’ nutrition, visit and follow on Instagram @thelifestyledietitian_kids.



Canto, A. M., & Salinas, C. M. (2020). Is vegan feeding advisable in first childhood? OA Journal of Food and Nutrition, 2019(1:001), 1-8.

Melina, V., Craig, W., & Levin, S. (2016). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(12), 1970-1980.

Weder, S., Hoffmann, M., Becker, K., Alexy, U., & Keller, M. (2019). Energy, Macronutrient Intake, and Anthropometrics of Vegetarian, Vegan, and Omnivorous Children (1–3 Years) in Germany (VeChi Diet Study). Nutrients, 11(4), 832.